DIVA’S REVIEW: Zootopia

Yes, yes yes… It’s about time!

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How can I express my overwhelming elation with this brilliant film! Zootopia is an instant classic which cleverly utilizes anthropomorphic characters with both stereotypical traits true to how we would expect them to be if they were human-like, and also typical traits of our protagonists, antagonists, sidekicks, etc…

I won’t be mentioning any spoilers as I assume most people have seen the movie already since this review is “past due” IMHO, and you don’t need to be re-told what happens. However, I wanted to focus a bit on the undertones of the film. Ok cool, thanks!

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This film caught some heat from those who believed there were strong racial undertones. This, I’m assuming, is in regards to the “Predator vs. Prey” theme threaded throughout the film, which felt very familiar as our social issues between race vs. race, or perhaps religion vs. religion. While the topic is certainly heavy for a kids movie starring a bunny cop, I definitely felt that fourth wall disappear on a couple of occasions while watching the film.

Whether it was the intention of the writers on not, I actually approve of this “hidden” plot line. Taking infamous enemies such as a fox and a bunny and using that connection as an analogy for prejudice was not only a perfect call, but overdue in my opinion. The reason it worked so well is because of the characters themselves. Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (voicef by Jason Bateman) had some amazing chemistry. And while this isn’t a love story, the evolution of their friendship was extremely believable.

Judy Hopps comes from a small town, where the community appears set in their ways. Her dreams of being a cop strikes a cord with her town, including her parents who believe in having “realistic” dreams. It’s a great scene when the two parents are trying to explain that she should actually not try, and stick with what was normal, AKA acceptable or expected of her. Hopps’ resilience is catching as she works hard to prove herself, and her hard works pays off! In the end, she defeats all odds, silences the naysayers, and becomes the first ever “bunny cop”. She is assigned to work in the heart of Zootopia, a mega-city full of diverse landscapes and bustling with animals from all walks of life.

Of course, Hopps is not the most popular rookie on the team, and while she starts off full of fanciful dreams of saving the world, she is quickly pulled down from that dream as she realizes that her assignments are rather menial.

nick-and-judyHer vigor leads her to volunteer to find a missing otter, against her Captain’s orders. She basically bets her career that she will find him. It’s an impulsive mood, especially considering that the file on Mr. Otterton is practically non-existent, and, Hopps has little to no resources. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Hopps has no choice but to swindle herself a sly fox that she had previously met. Enter Nick Wilde!

The two could not be more different, but as they move through this crazy search together, they realize that they have both suffered lifelong judgments based solely on their appearance.

Wilde decided as a child that if people expected him to be a certain way (a sly fox), then that was all he would be. Interestingly enough, Wilde does possess a strong trait of being unusually clever. Hopps points out how his cleverness could be a useful tool and he would make a great cop. It’s a great moment, because Wilde accepts that there is more to him than he ever thought. Also, he shouldn’t be ashamed to be “clever”, because it was something they needed to solve the case!

There is a lot of focus on working hard for what you want, believing in yourself, and, not judging a book by its cover. The lessons in this movie are amazingly taught. But beyond the lessons we get from this movie, it’s also just a hands-down wonderfully funny and visually beautiful film, filled with excellent Easter eggs as well!

I can’t say enough good things about Zootopia! The plot moves along and doesn’t drag out. You get super involved with the characters, too. I especially love watching the little hamsters with their little suits on OMG!!!! SO cute!!! But I digress.

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This film has heart, and the moment the credits began to roll, I honestly debated with buying another ticket and watching it a second time. Not to mention, I did see the movie for the first time while at Disney Springs, so hello major Disney-ness!

You’re just going to love it, I promise! Zootopia is also available on Netflix, so really there is no excuse to not check out the movie.

And if you’ve already seen the movie, please tell me what you thought of it!

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DIVA’S REVIEW: The Good Dinosaur

Oh, I hope they like me after this one…

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If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read this review. I literally go over the whole movie. Spoilers galore!

The best way for me to document my feelings for this movie might be to start off with the positives. One thing that Pixar’s newest film has over its predecessors has to be the animation. That’s to be expected, some may say, since the normal evolution of anything is for it to get better with practice. But truthfully, the landscapes were so detailed and rich with color that at time I forgot that this was not a movie filmed in the woods somewhere. Absolutely stunning.

I didn’t know anything about this movie, but, I did surmise that this story line would confirm what I long hoped, and many speculated, was the unspoken nature of Pixar films: They stories are created in a parallel universe. Yes. A storytellers playground.

How? The movie opens in outer space, and we follow the path of an asteroid as it races down towards Earth. With an inherent understanding of how this action historically plays out, you would expect that the asteroid would crash onto the Earth’s surface, right next to a pack of grazing Stegosauruses, perhaps, and BOOM – that’s the end of the dinosaurs as we know it.

Such is not the case in The Good Dinosaur. This asteroid swoops on by, without causing so much as a breeze in the night sky, and the dinosaurs are allowed to evolve into…

Intelligent, human-like creatures that operate on a sophisticated and highly-advanced level to their doppelganger brethren in our universe.

Yes. The cause of this asteroid missing the planet sets the wheels in motion for the interesting evolution in animals and machines alike in this parallel universe. This is my theory, anyways. And with this theory in my head as I entered the movie theater, I was half-expecting John Lasseter to appear, sitting in front of me all stealth-like, and then at the perfect moment, announce to everyone in the theater that I did it. I put that piece together. Well, when that didn’t happen, what I was left with was the film itself.

The film, in all its beautiful, stressful, simplistic, boring glory.

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The actual story line felt familiar. That’s because it has been done before. A few times. And this movie didn’t try to make the circumstances leading up to the start of the great journey feel any newer than what we have experienced before. From the moment you’re introduced to Arlo, the young Apatosaurus, and his family, which consists of a brother, a sister, and two parents, you get the feeling that this big happy family will never make it intact. It’s apparent right off the bat that Arlo’s father will die. And soon. Why?

Because we are introduced to a young dino who is afraid of leaving his farm, of getting out into the world and exploring. We have seen enough movies to know that something big, something dramatic, is going to have to happen to push Arlo out of his comfort zone. And what’s the perfect formula for injecting sadness and an urgency that the main character has to grow? Well, losing a parent. Not only was it painfully obvious that Arlo’s father, Poppa Henry, would die, but the way that he died was straight-up Mufasa!

Now, Arlo is on his own in a big, scary world. And it’s stressful. It’s harsh. The dinosaur literally gets knocked down so many times, it starts to feel oppressive.

As soon as his journey begins, Arlo runs in to a human-kid, Spot (who was the “cause” of Henry’s death), who acts more like a dog or a wolf. Arlo wants to find his way home, and Spot follows him. I was entertained by their relationship in the beginning. The dinosaur was the leader, the intelligble one of the group. The boy was more like an animal. They were a funny pair, and I truly liked how that relationship began. They went through the journey together, but because of all the sadness in this movie, having two lost, orphaned travelers felt too heavy. Spot was adorable. Arlo was not street-smart and needed this wild child. This relationship might be the only reason I stayed through the end of the movie.

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They run into some mean pterodactyls; crazy eyes and a cuddly-creature-death-for-shock-value aside, these characters were actually more annoying than intimidating. Then they find some T-rex herders and help them out for a quick minute. They have a campfire-night sky-storytelling  moment where the Father T-Rex is supposed to drop some gold nuggets of wisdom down for the travelers to collect, although this whole scene bored me and didn’t connect with anything. Anything at all. There wasn’t even a feeling of relief when Arlo assisted the T-Rex family successfully. After they left the T-Rex family, they were optimistic about getting to Arlo’s farm. I didn’t care. The main character was tormented that rejoining him after the “break” felt more like a chore than something to look forward to. I wish there had been more moments of being carefree, or laughing, or SOMETHING!

They almost got home, but those damned pterodactyls find them again. Predictable, yes. We knew at this point in the film that every thing was going to be a fight. This time, they take Spot and leave Arlo behind. Now, injured and alone, Arlo sees the ghost of his father. I was surprised that this scene didn’t have any affect on me. I cry at nearly every thing. But since I knew that this scene was coming, (i.e.; Mufasa visiting with Simba…) I felt overly prepared to see Poppa once more.

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Of course, after the ghostly visit, Arlo digs up some strength, turns his direction away from home and heads to save his friend. He scares them away with an intimidating roar *ehm* and within a matter of seconds, really, the climax of the film is over.

Then Arlo and Spot head home. A human family runs into them and without speaking, offer to take Spot with them and raise him. Arlo has a moment of anger, where he wants Spot to stay with him. This scene did make me sad, but I thought to myself; “What would really be awesome – since there has really been no happiness in this film – is if Arlo takes the humans back to the farm and teaches them how to produce food for themselves.” Yes. A happy ending. Arlo certainly deserved it.

But he didn’t get it. Spot went with the humans… wherever they go, and Arlo went home. His Mom yelled his name out and the movie was over. The end.

Aside from using a dinosaur as the main character, there was nothing memorable about the film. The characters, the journey, the music… nothing! If you want a beautiful slideshow to play in the background as you’re entertaining guests or trying to meditate… put this film on mute and let it go. At least the imagery was worthwhile. But honestly, when lacking everything else, what does that matter?

Suffice to say, I have never been more disappointed in a Pixar movie. I’m really bummed out. Perhaps my expectations were too grand this time, but I have to say, in my opinion, The Good Dinosaur was nothing more than a recycled story painted in pretty colors, perhaps hoping for a distraction from the lack of actual story telling. Will I watch it again. Yes. Why? To see if I am missing something. Maybe I can appreciate the story more now that I understand the direction. And I would be willing to give it a second chance simply because it is a Pixar movie, and I admire/adore/love their films. But I had to be honest, and this is honestly how my initial viewing of the movie went.

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Thoughts? Comments? Cookies?

Leave ’em here! 🙂

DIVA’S REVIEW: Inside Out

Feelings. Emotions. Emotions having feelings. Feeling emotional………

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You’ll experience an overwhelming amount of feelings and get emotional during Pixar’s newest film, Inside Out. This movie gets incredibly creative as it invents a new world that exists inside all of us. First, let’s start with the cast.

I can’t think of any one better to play the role of Anger than Lewis Black. He was a riot, and absolutely perfect. Bill Hader joined the group as Fear, and was fine, nothing special if you ask me. Mindy Kaling voiced Disgust, and while she definitely had the least recognizable voice in the group (a positive thing, I might add), I was hoping she would have more lines, since her character was entertaining.

joy inside outAmy Poehler voiced the leader of the group, Joy, and in doing so became an animated version of my hero, Leslie Knope (Parks & Recreations). While I love the character of Knope, it was a little hard to visualize Joy as a different and unique character, since she possesses similar traits to the Deputy Director. It was a hurdle I tried to overcome, and while I enjoyed Joy’s perseverance to correct the situation she found herself in, the whole time I kept envisioning my favorite TV show, and that distracted me from getting to appreciate Joy.

sadness inside outBut the biggest surprise, I’m happy to report, was Phyllis Smith as Sadness. While she may not have made extraordinary strides to animate her voice as well as I feel Kaling accomplished, Smith enhanced the development of Sadness with an Eeyore-esque tone of despair that was truly distinctive to her character. Throughout the movie, you feel a range of emotions in connection to Sadness, making her the most defined character of the group. She goes from being annoyingly depressing to plain annoying (by way of the plots progression), to sympathetic, and finally you end with cheering her on as the surprise under-dog. Sadness is a great character, truly diverse and complex.

The set-up is brilliant. I especially love how creative the writers got with creating this world, AKA your brain. It’s like a factory that manufacture’s every memory you process, and there is great detail on what happens with long-term memories, imagination, core memories, and what creates a human’s personality. Of course, in this “factory” like workplace, there’s some mischief between the other workers “on the floor”, which explain certain phenomena such as why songs get stuck in your head, for instance. 🙂

The five emotions work at “Headquarters”, and have the ability to see the world through human Riley’s eyes. It is their job to essentially keep Riley happy, by influencing her with the right emotions at the right time. They also have access to memories that can help set the mood, if you will, and keep Riley progressively moving in a positive direction.

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The conflict of this movie occurs as Sadness becomes restless and begins getting into Riley’s core memories. These are the most important memories, because they define Riley’s personality traits. The emotions have the power to change the memories to reflect what they stand for. For example, the core memories are all created by Joy, but as Sadness touches them, we see the memory start to change and get blanketed into sadness. As Joy tries to save the core memories, she finds herself, along with Sadness, thrust out of HQ and onto the floor. This starts the determination of Joy to get back to HQ, because leaving the other three emotions to advise Riley’s mood is unbalanced, and quite honestly a problem. Imagine if you only had Anger, Fear, and Disgust running your life. That would be a pretty bleak outlook, don’t you think?

Of course, this disaster occurs in coordination with a big change in Riley’s life. That being the family moving from their beloved and spacious Montana to a small, decrepit row house in California.

riley sass inside outBefore you say anything, apparently it IS possible to be sad in the state where Disney began… I dunno, preteens are unpredictable, I suppose,and at this time Riley is at the ripe old age of eleven, cresting on the stubborn teen years. One might say: The Perfect Storm.

Joy and Sadness embark on the journey back to HQ, and are met with some obstacles, of course, but mostly it’s bad timing. Honestly, the journey back was not all that exciting for me. I was more intrigued by learning the process of memories and what makes a personality than caring if they made it back – because, ultimately, you knew they would.

The question that I believe was supposed to keep the “journey” interesting, was that Joy and Sadness were racing against the clock, because Riley’s personality was being jeopardized and we weren’t sure how much of Riley would be left by the time Joy got back to HQ to save the day.

Even still, the threat that Riley could turn into an angry, paranoid, judgmental creep if Joy and Sadness failed, was not that imminent. That’s the one area I believe the movie failed.

But, Pixar did succeed in making this Diva bawl her eyes out during one of the – shall I be so bold? – saddest moments in Pixar Film history! I won’t give it all away, but for those of you who have seen the movie, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. I didn’t see it coming, and I’m actually going through the grieving phases as we speak. Today, I’m stuck on denial.

The movie envelopes a great amount of “growth”, and threads this theme throughout and in many different ways. Most obvious would be watching Riley grow from an infant into a young girl. She leads a relatively happy life, anjoy sadness inside outd even when the family has to move, Joy makes sure that Riley adjusts as easily as she can.

We also experience growth during the tribulation of Joy and Sadness. Joy not only learns tolerance for her somber sidekick, but begins to realize that each emotion plays an intricate role in creating Riley’s memories. Knowing joyfulness can only be felt when one has experienced sadness. Without each other, Riley would not be able to enjoy the pleasures of what interests her.

It becomes apparent to Joy that a memory not only can be changed, but should be. While Riley’s core memories, which include playing hockey and ice-skating with her parents, were once a single-emotion (joy), now that life has been changing for Riley, her looking back on those memories of her childhood home would inevitably stir up some sadness as well. A mixture of sadness and joy creates a bittersweet memory, a completely new emotion. We start to see that the five emotions can combine together to create a multitude of feelings, which is necessary for a young-adult to have.

Being a baby and a young child, they can’t experience or understand complex emotions because they’re young and learning about life. But as we grow, like Riley, it becomes apparent that entering into adulthood with basic emotions is impossible, and at the same time, unrealistic. The movie shows the audience that we have to be capable of having a vast amount of emotions, because that shows that we are growing into more complex human beings. The way this is done is beautiful and perhaps more intricate than you would expect from a “kids movie’.

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All in all, Inside Out has a different feeling from the normal “story-telling” type that we’re used to with Pixar. It feels deeper and more philosophical on some level, making it tough to declare that I will watch it over and over again, as I do with other classics such as Toy Story and Monster’s Inc. I believe that this movie has a unique and more mature outlook, so you have to be in a certain mood to sit back and enjoy it. As I stated in the beginning – you WILL feel, you WILL react emotionally, and most likely, you WILL cry. You may also need a moment to reflect, I did. I couldn’t leave the theater right away, I needed some time to digest all of the feelings that were stirred up inside due to this film. For this reason alone, I would claim that Inside Out is a success, because a movie that can get you to consider your own life is a pretty powerful thing.

My final word of advice: Go see it today, and bring tissues.

 

 

DIVA’S REVIEW: Cinderella (2015)

The best way to deliver this review would be to sing all the words to you! And while I didn’t mean to rhyme, it doesn’t hurt to keep the opening line.

OK – I’ll stop. But seriously, the movie was undeniably the most magical, classic, wonderful movie I have seen in an extremely long time, and that always makes me want to sing! Where to begin…

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The Cinderella movie is incomparable to its animated counterpart, but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. I’m a strong supporter of the classic Cinderella, and believe she is the ultimate Disney princess. Anyone who would argue is not to be trusted. (he he) 🙂

The story line does stick with the main thread of the original; beautiful young maiden, nasty step-mother and sisters, the Prince’s ball, pumpkin at midnight, etc… But the plot goes deeper into the background story of Prince Charming – or “Kit”, as he is called by his father – making him a much more structured and sympathetic character. You really feel for him while he is on the search for his love. And it doesn’t hurt that the actor portraying the infamous Prince is none other than Richard Madden (shout out to my GOT Robb Stark fangirls out there!).

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Mmm hm.

Besides better developing Prince Charming, we are treated through a bittersweet journey with Ella and her mother. She is such an important influence on sweet Ella. Her life lessons are taken to heart by her only child, and you feel a true loss when she passes on. It was such a wonderful experience to watch their interaction on screen. She leaves behind some words of wisdom that we are able to see Ella utilize throughout her life without her mother: “Have courage and be kind”

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These are good words to live by… but I believe Ella did not fully understand their meaning until the ending of the movie. She takes the “be kind” message to literally, and in turn allows her new family to treat her horribly, while she allows it to happen. I was concerned that her absent “backbone” would generate by way of the Prince; thus keeping with the old-fashioned way of delivering princess movies where the princess is undefinable until she gets married to her prince. I’m happy to say, though, that this was not the case.

While she would remind herself to “have courage and be kind”, we see Ella learn that above all else, you need to be kind to yourself. This means having the courage to stand up for yourself against those who are not kind. I love that her mother’s message could adhere to multiple situations, and regardless of how interpreted, the user (Ella) would always be morally in the right. Ella does finally speak up for herself, and I cheered for her when it happened.

The movie took on a different life of its own visually. I was stunned by how beautiful the imagery was in this film. It felt like I was in the middle of this fairy-tale world, and I truly did not want it to end. It was absolutely beautiful in every way. The dress scene alone was astonishing! Knowing that in the original film, it was Walt Disney’s absolute favorite bit of animation, I felt that they paid this tribute to him by creating one of the most magnificent scenes that needs to be witnessed.

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The extra character background and imagery are two parts of this film that undoubtedly set this film apart from the others. But I do have to get real right now, and there was one area that I was actually disappointed in, and that was – surprisingly – the casting.

tumblr_nfaqxcDGUF1rx6lo2o2_r1_500Earlier in my blog, I had written about my skepticism for Helena Bonham Carter playing the Fairy Godmother. While I always try to keep an open mind from judgement on casting (especially after I was completely against Heath Ledger, and actor I truly adored, playing the Joker – until I saw him! #eatCrow), my original disdain for this casting was unfortunately founded, for me anyways.

I think they wanted to create a fairy who was a bit absent minded, and maybe because of the short amount of screen time she had, this translated on-screen as more of an annoyance then a playful flaw.

Plus, I wasn’t buying the look of the fairy godmother. This may be because I’m used to the animated fairies from movies like the original Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, meaning the older, plump little grandma looking fairies. Carter didn’t cut it for me.

Cate Blanchett, an actor I admire greatly, was just “all right” with me. The acting with Ella and her parents, along with Prince Charming and the King, were fabulous. In a way, I wish that the evil stepmother was a bit more evil, but the way the story goes, you sort of sympathize with her at the end – just for a second, a mere second! Because of that, I was uncertain about how I feel in regards to her character, but know that she didn’t steal the show as she usually does.

But the biggest disappointment was the stepsisters. Simply put: they weren’t funny.

Sorry Sophie McShera - I think you're adorable, but this was not my favorite of you at all. :(

Sorry Sophie McShera – I think you’re adorable, but this was not my favorite of you at all. 😦

While they are supposed to be disliked because they are rude and mean to the protagonist, the love’em/hate’em traits never came through. Their gaudy attire and clumsy motions were meant to add to their image of distasteful girls, but instead, due to either poor acting or sub-par writing, these additional features only aided in presenting the stepsisters as dumb and obnoxious, and not in a  funny way. I actually hated it when they were on screen, because they took away from the wonderful world that this film had allowed me to enter. They didn’t make me laugh or even anger me, they just got on my nerves.

Thankfully, the good far outweighs the bad, and the best is hands down, no doubt about it, Lily James – our Cinderella! She is the absolutely steals the show, and is just perfect as Ella. I don’t think any one else could have portrayed the empathetic character any more gracefully then she did. And I don’t think I can commend her enough on this performance, she was born to play this role. *Applause*

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My recommendation: Go see the movie and allow yourself to be swept away into this beautiful world that has been created for you. This is an immeasurable delight that just has to be experienced by anyone who has ever wished upon a star!

DIVA’S REVIEW: Big Hero 6

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*I promise there are no spoilers!*

Let me start off by saying that I had always enjoyed super hero movies when I was a kid. I loved the Power Rangers, TMNT, and X-Men. When the new round of Batman movies came out, I was ecstatic, and saw them all multiple times. And I loved the Iron Man movies, which merged into The Avengers… which is where my enthusiasm began to descend.

I feel that lately the super hero movies are lacking something. I can’t stand the Iron Man sequels, did not enjoy the first Avengers movie, or any of the spin-offs they inspired (sorry, Captain America, but I wish you would stop).

So I admittedly was hesitant to go see the new Disney movie, Big Hero 6, for fear that it would follow the same mediocre production as its predecessors. Luckily for me, I was very, very wrong.

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First off, this movie has a wonderful characters of mostly the brainy scientist types, a group that has long been stereotyped in movies and never truly allowed to evolve into anything more, until now. Boy genius Hiro is a incredibly intelligent, but he’s also really cool and sort of edgy. He doesn’t don the nerdy glasses/braces/pocket protector, or talk with some sort of speech impediment, as per most “nerdy” characters. He’s rather fearless and very likable. His closeness to his brother, Tadashi, feels real and genuine, and you are instantly taken by their relationship.Even the smaller roles have an authenticity to them.

The brother’s Aunt Cass (voiced by the fabulous Maya Rudolph) is super cool and trendy, and while you get the idea that she doesn’t really know how to raise two boys, you also understand that she cherishes them and has great memories of time spent with them, probably while cooking!

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The group that Hiro matches himself up with all bring something special. My only complaint is that we don’t get to know the group much, save for one member whose background is pretty interesting (stay after the credits to understand why!). But the way they got together is sufficient enough for the viewer to feel a comradery with Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Gogo, and Fred.

And of course, there’s Baymax. Truly a unique robot – I mean who’s ever seen such a plushy, squishy robot before? He isn’t a fighter, he doesn’t have laser vision, he can’t even fly. He was built to care for humans and his dedication to Hiro is as heartwarming as the love shared between the more tradition “boy and his dog”. Baymax rocks!

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Second, the story is full of heart. You will laugh out loud at some of the situations sweet Baymax and Hiro get into. The emotions, the struggles, the low points, and the triumphs are all felt very strongly because of the perfect character development. The viewer will feel that passion from the creators while they watch the movie. It’s impossible not too.

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When venturing through San Fransokyo, notice all of the unbelievable attention to detail places through every alleyway. And my fellow anime fans are sure to feel the Hayao Miyazaki influence as the team rushes through the cities highways. Part of the story is told simply through the back drop. It’s wonderful!

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And most importantly, it’s totally unique. This is not a superhero movie. It’s totally different. I love the fact that the “nerds” are getting their day, and in a completely kick-ass way ta-boot!

Go see this movie. Leave your preconceived ideas at the door, because I promise that this movie is full of surprises, and has something for everyone. Let me know what you think!

Diva’s Review: MALEFICENT

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Oh, my my my. When I pictured myself sitting down at my desk, sipping some tea as I reflectively pondered the words to describe the summer’s “hottest new tale”, I certainly did not expect that I would be writing words of disappointment.

But that’s what I have to do. First off, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t read on. I will be going into the movies plot – if you can call the disconnected segments of scenes a plot – and wanted to offer a heads up.

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Let me start with some positives. The visual aspects of Maleficent is absolutely stunning. Sleeping Beauty’s castle is nestled atop a strong mountain so to stand out above the kingdom. The Moors, home of the Fairy Maleficent and otherworldly creatures such as pixies and, what appeared to be, living trees and trolls, although I don’t recall them being labeled anything, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s almost like Pandora in Avatar, a truly new and fascinating place that feels magical.

Another positive would be the ever-fabulous Angeline Jolie, who plays the title role. She looks and acted the role very well, and even did a stellar accent in my opinion. I am a huge fan of Jolie’s, and have seen nearly all of her films. This one, though, ranks far down the bottom of the list. It wasn’t her acting, really she was the only one in the movie that you care for, but the role of Maleficent was meant to be so complex, that the other characters were virtually nonexistent and therefore the movie was literally about her. Only her.

One last positive before I get into why I believe this movie was a failure. The preliminary plot had the potential to be unique and, the movie did succeed in giving Maleficent new life and a new story line. For those of us who grew up knowing Maleficent as the villain, it was entertaining, albeit moderately at best, to consider a different side of the dark fairy.

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The original Maleficent was so evil!

Unfortunately, the anticipation of an alternate story line and hope that Princess Aurora would gain more substance in this retelling, surely disappointed. Let’s start with the plot.

Maleficent is a kind fairy who lives in The Moors. She has wings, like any fairy, and proudly flies over her home, enjoying the freedom that one would expect flying would give. She is protective over her home and all the various creatures that live there, and soon enough is appointed to be the protector of The Moors. Enter speed bump number one: Stefan.

Young love. You know this means trouble.

Young love. You know this means trouble.

Stefan is a human boy who meets Maleficent, and the two become unlikely friends. Unlikely because in this world, humans are greedy and destructive and not to be trusted. Well, that much is similar to our world, I suppose.

Maleficent and Stefan soon fall in love. It’s around this time that a weakness is revealed. While Maleficent is powerful and protects the magical world, if she is touched with iron, she will be injured. It’s deadly to fairies. Of course, Stefan is aware of this, and I believe at the moment this is revealed, we are not supposed to connect the dots. Hm.

Now, while the first 30 minutes of this plot’s build-up are rather cohesive, from the moment the Stefan learns that iron harms fairies, the plot quickly unravels and disconnects. Stefan grows up and in an effort to become the next king, betrays Maleficent and cuts off her beloved wings.

King Stefan

King Stefan

This act is what turns Maleficent into a vengeful force. The whole time I was watching the movie and seeing Maleficent cast spells and use magic, I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t she just make herself new wings?” Well, there was a reason. You just don’t know about it until the last fifteen minutes. At the end, iron is inevitably used by the guards to try and bring down Maleficent. It’s then we discover that her wings have been locked in an iron chest. I wish they had shown that in the beginning.

But, once Maleficent’s curse on Princess Aurora is cast, you might as well leave the theater, because after that you are forced to watch about an hours worth of nonsensical scenes that do nothing to ignite any feelings of excitement, tension, victory, etc… It’s almost as if you are watching mock up scenes for a story board. As if the director, producer, and creative minds have a presentation to show how they would like the story to unfold. It’s an overview of the story, completely lacking any scene endings or transitions that keep you hanging. None of the scenes hit the mark to keep the momentum, instead they just flow lifelessly into each other like a dazed and confused reel of images.

And that’s just the plot. I haven’t even begun to explain the issues with the characters!

In the original Sleeping Beauty movie, the best part, for me, were the three little fairies who dedicate years to keeping Aurora safe from the evil Maleficent. They were funny, charming, and each had their own quirks that were identifiable and created a trio of odd, but memorable characters. They had a relationship with Aurora, who adored them and truly you could tell that they all cared about each other.

Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather

Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather

In this film, however, such was not the case.

First of all, the three guardians are not fairies, they are pixies, and I don’t remember if it was this way in the original, but they did it in this movie so to create a distinction between Maleficent the fairy, which appears to be the leading race, to the problematic pixies.

Not only are the pixies disenchanting visually, but their inherent quirkiness does not translate well due to lack of character development and screen time, so they come off as annoying and sort of useless – and not in a funny way. The twist in this film is that the pixies are inept in caring for Aurora, and that it is Maleficent who always stays close by and secretly keeps the young princess from getting hurt or fatally injured while the three pixies are off fighting with one another. It’s a sweet sentiment to see Maleficent care for the girl she cursed, but because the focus remains fully on Maleficent, the pixies follies are never developed into anything solid and so they remain useless and, in the end, forgettable.

Knotgrass (red), Flittle (blue), and Thistlewit (green).

Knotgrass (red), Flittle (blue), and Thistlewit (green).

There is only one scene where Aurora and the pixies are shown conversing together, and it is when Aurora is telling her “Aunts” that she is moving out. This happens the day before her 16th birthday. This whole scene was terrible. Because the four are never interacting until this moment, Aurora’s declaration about leaving made me just shrug and think, “Okay, why are you telling these strangers?” The pixies, whose job was to keep Aurora in the cabin until one day after her birthday, (so, two more days at this point), do little to nothing to stop her from moving out. They just sort of sighed as Aurora went into the world to join Maleficent. What?!?!

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At this point in the movie, Aurora has labeled Maleficent as her “Fairy Godmother”, and the two have become very close. Maleficent wonders if Aurora, who loves The Moors and seems kindhearted, could bring the world of humans and magical creatures together. In a fleeting moment, Maleficent recognizes the potential and tries to lift the curse. She can’t of course. And once Aurora finds out that Maleficent had cursed her, she gets upset (barely, though) and runs off. It’s a dud of a scene.

Next useless character is Prince Phillip.

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You know, the love of Princess Aurora’s life, the one who saves her from an eternal sleep. Yeah. He has about five minutes of screen time, and those are five of the most unbearable minutes of the movie. He’s all together useless and there is absolutely no spark between him and Aurora. I don’t even know why they put him in the movie.

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Maleficent also has a sidekick, a bird she turned into a crow/human and uses as a spy in honor of the original Maleficent’s crow sidekick. He did get a nice little back story too, which I appreciated. I never caught his name, though. He brought little to the film, since he wasn’t really funny (although he tried a couple of times to make observational jokes regarding Maleficent), he wasn’t really heroic, and if he had died at the end, I probably wouldn’t have cared.

Meh...

Meh…

You know who did die at the end though? King Stefan, aka Aurora’s dad. You know who killed him? Maleficent. You know who didn’t care? Aurora. Yeah, Aurora just figured that since she loved the walking-tree-men and other non-descriptive creatures so much, that after her father was killed (oh by the way, her mom dies too but no one cares, not even Stefan), it made sense to skip off to The Moors with the fairy who murdered him. Oh, right, it’s because of that true love thing…

Yes, in an attempt to be “different”, Prince Useless Phillip plants what he thinks is true loves kiss onto Aurora, who has been in an eternal sleep for all of three minutes. It doesn’t work (surprise!), but guess what does. A tender kiss on the forehead from… Maleficent. So, the love of a “soul mate” wasn’t powerful enough, but the love of a surrogate mother, I’m using that term loosely, of course, did the trick. Hey guess what, that twist was already used, and much more powerfully I might add, just a couple of movies ago. Yeah, remember…..

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FROZEN? When the act of true love was a sister protecting another sister, and not the kiss from some man?

I’m all about modernizing classics and breaking away from the mold, but to copy the same formula? Come on.

The most disappointing character was, in my opinion, Aurora herself. Her childlike smile seemed more absentminded than charming, and she critically lacked any gumption that her Princess predecessors all contain. There was no characteristic of this princess to hang your hat on. I didn’t care about her at all.

Meh...

Meh…

There is so much more that I can say, but this review is getting far too long.  One funny observation I made was that in this film, Aurora’s mother remains nameless. Is this a tribute to the unnamed, un-credited Queen from the original Sleeping Beauty? As a diehard Disney fan, I will say this: The images are stunning and it was a success by way of creating a new “world”. But if you’re looking for substance, a good plot, I would suggest you watch something else.

Have you seen the movie? Leave me your thoughts!